At a public meeting during Mriganka Singh’s election campaign, held in the village of Dakheda in Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district, on 19 May, Surjan Singh, a BJP leader from the village, addressed the gathering of over 200 people. “Ab humare Hindu bhai aur sabhi log surakshit hain.” (Now our Hindu brothers and all others are safe.) Mriganka is the BJP candidate in the upcoming bypoll, on 28 May, for the Kairana seat in the Lok Sabha, which fell vacant after Hukum Singh, her father and the former member of parliament from the constituency, died in February this year. Surjan continued, “Sarkar Muzaffarnagar dango ke sabhi galat mukadme wapis le rahi hai.” (The government is withdrawing the false cases of the Muzaffarnagar riots.) “Ab Hindu nahi, gunde yahan se palayan kar rahe hain, aur jo nahi jaa rahe unko Yogi ji golion se bhoon kar upar bhej rahe hain” (Now, instead of Hindus, the goons are leaving Kairana, and Yogi is showering bullets to kill those who are not leaving.)
A seven-time member of the legislative assembly, Hukum—popularly known in the area as “Babuji”—had a controversial record as a legislator. In 2013, he was named in acase arising out of the Muzzaffarnagar riots, on allegations of inciting communal violence through provocative speeches. In June 2016, one year before state elections, Hukum stirred communal tensions in Kairana by releasing a list of 346 members of Hindu families who had allegedly fled the town. He claimed that they had leftbecause they feared the Muslim residents who resettled in Kairana after the Muzzaffarnagar riots.Though the claims were debunked by several subsequent investigative reports—which revealed that the allegations were exaggerated and that many residents, including Muslims, had migrated from the town due to economic pressures—Mriganka’s campaign is echoing a similar communal rhetoric.
Residents of the Dakheda village, situated around 25 kilometres from Kairana town , are predominantly from the Thakur, Banjara, and Jaat communities. Dozens of BJP flags lined the boundary walls of the village pradhan, Kuldeep Singh's house. Mriganka arrived at Dakhedain the afternoon along with aconvoy of over 10 SUVs and throngs of supporters. As she greeted the residents of the village, chants of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Babuji Amar Rahein” broke out. Shortly after, Mriganka and her supporters headed towards the nearby community building, where the public meeting was to be held.
At the meeting, a few BJP leaders from the Shamli district took the stage before Mriganka addressed the crowd. While Mriganka herself refrained from expressing any communal rhetoric, the other party leaders exercised no such restraint. During his speech, Kuldeep, too, rehashed the allegations raised by Hukum. “Even in Muzaffarnagar riots, all the cases were filed in Kairana, that too against Hindu brothers. Why? No riots happened here.” He continued,“All the rehabilitation colonies were built in Kairana. Why? Because they only know how to increase their numbers and engage in hooliganism.”
The communally-charged speeches by the BJP leaders received loud, positive reactions from the crowd. During her address to the gathering, Ruby Chaudhary, a BJP leader and the pradhan of the nearby Bajhedi village in Shamli, asked the crowd, “Toh yeh seat kiski hai?” (Whose seat is this?) The crowd yelled back almost in unison, “Babuji ki beti ki.” But the village pradhan added a word of caution during his speech, urging the crowd to go out and vote on 28 May.“Please don’t think that your party has enough support so your vote is not needed,” he said.“This is what happened in Phoolpur and Gorakhpur.” Kuldeep added that BJP would win BJP Kairana through “saam, daam, dand aur bhed” (by hook or by crook).